Step By Step Guide Building Your Own Home

Step By Step Guide Building Your Own Home

Homes come in all varieties to fit all needs. However, due to the rich choice of existing housing stock, plus the high cost of building a new-construction home, most would-be homeowners buy an existing house. And this is not a bad choice at all. Most houses are durable enough to last for decades, can readily be remodelled, and have the potential for increasing in value.

Yet, new-construction homes have an undeniable allure. A new house can be designed exactly for your needs. It comes with few, if any, hidden problems. Hazardous materials such as lead-based paint and asbestos are non-existent. New advantages are built into the house, and old problems are left out. So, it’s no surprise that most people would choose to build their own home rather than buy an old home if all other factors were the same. Many states do allow homeowners to act as a contractor for their own home. With this arrangement, you become what is frequently termed an owner-builder. To contract out for a large-scale project such as a house (rather than an outbuilding or small, lower-cost building), you need to apply for an owner-builder exemption and sign the building permit application yourself.

Yet, very few people are qualified to act as their general contractors (GC). Building a house requires you to pull together many strings and make sure that they coordinate in many ways. Projects and subcontractors have to be scheduled in the correct order, interspersed with numerous municipal inspections. You’ll need to know the building code. Plus, it helps immensely to have a network of subcontractors you rely on to perform trustworthy work.

The person that does all of that is a general contractor. Unfortunately, no general contractor overseeing home construction comes cheap. Most general contractors charge between 10-percent to 20-percent of the overall cost of the home build, including permits and materials. It’s a fee that most amateur home-builders find well worthwhile, especially if they have any tried-and-failed experience at general contracting.

10 Steps to Build a New Home Are 

“Our homeowners enjoy watching the home come together, from pouring the foundation to framing and watching the home take shape,” he says. “Once the home has drywall, they start to visualize themselves living in the space and how they’ll use it — imagining what furniture goes where and how they’ll entertain friends and family there.

“They spend a good bit of time designing the home to be unique to their family needs and tastes, so seeing it all come together is rewarding for them,” says Perschino.

To help you prepare for and understand your new home’s construction, this article outlines the typical steps your builder will take during the construction of a new home and will help keep you abreast of what happens at key stages.

Keep in mind that the homebuilding process may vary from region to region and builder to builder, especially if you’re building an elaborate custom home. So be sure to ask your builder about his or her specific policies and procedures.

“We encourage our homebuyers to make an appointment with their agent or project manager to come out and walk through the home at any stage,” Perschino says. “We suggest that it be by appointment to cut down on some of the safety concerns or limitations when a house is under construction. It also gives us a chance to offer a one-on-one conversation that may not be the same via email.”

Prepare Construction Site and Pour Foundation

Before a builder can put a shovel in the ground, the local government must approve the design and provide permits for everything from zoning and grading (changing the contour of the land to accommodate your home and driveway) to the septic systems and home construction electrical work, and plumbing. Once permits are acquired, physical construction can begin.

Often, the same crew performs site preparation and foundation work, but this may not be the case with a wooded lot:

  1. Using a backhoe and a bulldozer, the crew clears the site of rocks, debris and trees for the house and, if applicable, the septic system.
  2. The crew levels the site, puts up wooden forms to serve as a template for the foundation and digs the holes and trenches.
  3. Footings (structures where the house interfaces with the earth that supports it) are installed.

If your home is going to have a well, it will be dug at this point.

If the home has a full basement, the hole is dug, the footings are formed and poured, and the foundation walls are formed and poured. If it’s slab-on-grade, the footings are dug, formed and poured; the area between them is levelled and fitted with utility runs (e.g. plumbing drains and electrical chases), and the slab is poured.

Once the concrete is poured into the holes and trenches, it will need time to cure. During this period, there will be no activity on the construction site.

After the concrete is cured, the crew applies a waterproofing membrane to the foundation walls; installs drains, sewer, water taps and any plumbing that needs to go into the first-floor slab or basement floor; and backfills excavated dirt into the hole around the foundation wall.

When the curing process is complete, a city inspector visits the site to ensure foundation components are up to code and installed properly. This inspection may be repeated depending on the type of foundation (slab, crawl space or basement). Your builder will then remove the forms and begin coordinating step No. 2, the framing phase.

Complete Rough Framing

The floor systems, walls and roof systems are completed (collectively known as the shell or skeleton of the house). Next, plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing is applied to the exterior walls and roof, and windows and exterior doors are installed. The sheathing is then covered with a protective barrier known as a house wrap; it prevents liquid water from infiltrating the structure while allowing water vapour to escape. This reduces the likelihood of mould and wood rot.

Complete Rough Plumbing, Electrical HVAC

Once the shell is finished, siding and roofing can be installed. At the same time, the electrical and plumbing contractors start running pipes and wires through the interior walls, ceilings and floors. Next, sewer lines and vents and water supply lines for each fixture are installed. Finally, bathtubs and one-piece shower/tub units are put in place at this point because there’s more room to maneuver large, heavy objects.

Ductwork is installed for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and possibly the furnace. HVAC vent pipes are installed through the roof, and insulation is installed in the floors, walls and ceilings.

After the roofing goes on, the house is considered “dried in.” An electrician then installs receptacles for outlets, lights and switches and runs wires from the breaker panel to each receptacle. Wiring for telephones, cable TV and music systems is included in this work.

Note that HVAC ducts and plumbing are usually installed before wiring because it’s easier to run wires around pipes and ducts than vice versa.

Rough framing, plumbing, and electrical and mechanical systems are inspected for compliance with building codes. Most likely, these will be three different inspections. At the very least, the framing inspection will be conducted separately from the electrical/mechanical inspections.

At this stage, drywall (also known as plasterboard, wallboard or gypsum board) is delivered to the building site.

Install Insulation

Insulation plays a key role in creating a more comfortable, consistent indoor climate while significantly improving a home’s energy efficiency. One of the most important insulation qualities is its thermal performance or R-value, which indicates how well the material resists heat transfer. Most homes are insulated in all exterior walls and the attic and any floors that are located above unfinished basements or crawl spaces.

The most common types of insulation used in new homes are fibreglass, cellulose and foam. Depending on the region and climate, your builder may also use mineral wool (otherwise known as rock wool or slag wool), concrete blocks, foam board or rigid foam, insulating concrete forms (ICFs); sprayed foam; and structural insulated panels (SIPs).

Blanket insulation, which comes in batts or rolls, is typical in new-home construction. So is loose-fill and blown-in insulation, which is made of fibreglass, cellulose or mineral-wool particles. Another insulation option, liquid foam, can be sprayed, foamed-in-place, injected or poured. While it costs more than traditional batt insulation, the liquid foam has twice the R-value per inch and can fill the smallest cavities, creating an effective air barrier.

Fibreglass and mineral-wool batts and rolls are usually installed in sidewalls, attics, floors, crawl spaces, cathedral ceilings and basements. Manufacturers often attach a facing such as kraft paper or foil-kraft paper to act as vapour and/or air barriers. In addition, the batts sometimes have a special flame-resistant facing in areas where the insulation will be left exposed, such as basement walls.

Complete Drywall and Interior Fixtures, Start Exterior Finishes

Drywall is hung and taped, so the seams between the boards aren’t visible, and drywall texturing (if applicable) is completed. The primer coat of paint is also applied after taping is complete. Finally, contractors begin installing exterior finishes such as brick, stucco, stone and siding.

Finish Interior Trim, Install Exterior Walkways and Driveway

Interior doors, baseboards, door casings, window sills, mouldings, stair balusters, and other decorative trim are installed along with cabinets, vanities, fireplace mantels, and surrounds. Walls get a finished coat of paint and are wallpapered where applicable.

Generally, exterior driveways, walkways and patios are formed at this stage. Many builders prefer to wait until the end of the project before pouring the driveway because heavy equipment (such as a drywall delivery truck) can damage concrete. But some builders pour the driveway as soon as the foundation is completed so that when homeowners visit the construction site, they won’t get their shoes muddy.

Install Hard Surface Flooring, Countertops; Complete Exterior Grading

Ceramic tile, vinyl and wood flooring are installed as well as countertops. Exterior finish grading is completed to ensure proper drainage away from home and prepare the yard for landscaping.

Finish Mechanical Trims; Install Bathroom Fixtures

Light fixtures, outlets and switches are installed, and the electrical panel is completed. HVAC equipment is installed, and registers are completed. Sinks, toilets and faucets are put in place.

Install Mirrors, Shower Doors; Finish Flooring, Exterior Landscaping

Mirrors, shower doors and carpeting, are installed, and final cleanup takes place. Trees, shrubs and grass are planted, and other exterior landscaping is completed.

A building-code official completes a final inspection and issues a certificate of occupancy. If any defects are found during this inspection, a follow-up inspection may be scheduled to ensure that they’ve been corrected.

Final Walk-Through

Your builder will walk you through your new home to acquaint you with its features and the operation of various systems and components and explain your responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep, as well as warranty coverage and procedures. This is often referred to as a pre-settlement walkthrough. It’s also an opportunity to spot items that need to be corrected or adjusted, so be attentive and observant. Examine the surfaces of countertops, fixtures, floors and walls for possible damage. Sometimes disputes arise because the homeowner discovers a gouge in a countertop after move-in, and there’s no way to prove whether it was caused by the builder’s crew or the homeowner’s movers.

5 Preparation Steps Before You Build Your New Home

The process of building a new home begins long before the foundation is poured. The construction process is most efficient and exciting if you first develop a good plan and find an honest, competent builder. To avoid costly mistakes during the construction process, start with these five important steps. Then, as you move from a dream house to a real house, be sure to ask questions and share your progress with people who have gone through the process.

Begin considering the budget from the very moment you start thinking about building your house. First, develop a realistic idea of how much you can afford to spend and how much it will cost to build a new home. The budgeting phase is really about balancing your wants with a realistic assessment of what you can afford.

Create Good Feng Shui in Your Home

Chances are, you will need a construction loan and a mortgage. It’s not too early to find out how large a loan you can qualify for, based on your income and other financial obligations. Today, most banks and other financial institutions are eager to prequalify you for a construction loan, which will give you a ballpark idea of the maximum amount of money you can spend. At the same time, this early stage involves looking at what different elements of your new home will cost, including the land itself, the architect or designer, the general contractor who will manage the project, the construction materials, and appliances and interior features.

This is a complicated, time-consuming process that really should begin many months before construction begins. It’s not uncommon to take as much as two years to thoroughly research the issues before you sign a construction contract with a builder.

Tips for Budgeting

  • Beware of banks who want to lend you more money than you can afford—this was one of the reasons behind the 2008 financial crisis. There is no reason to build a house that costs the maximum loan amount the bank approves. In fact, it is a very good idea to stay well under that amount. Talking to an independent financial advisor is a great way to determine how much you can comfortably spend to build your house.
  • Plan for cost overruns. Virtually all construction ends up costing more than initially planned. This often occurs because the costs of building materials change or because of changes you request during the design and construction phase. Make sure you build in a buffer to your budget so that the inevitable overruns don’t break the bank.
  • Get at least three contractor bids (and check references). In most cases, the bulk of the expense of building a home is the money you’ll pay to a general contractor (GC), who will manage all the labourers and subcontractors who work on the construction of your home. There is a delicate balance between picking an affordable contractor and doing quality work using good materials. Start with getting references from people you know who were satisfied with their builder, then carefully interview at least three. This process will give you a pretty good idea of what your home will cost to build.

Comparison shop for materials. While the general contractor typically picks most of the building materials, appliances, and amenities, you will want to be involved in this process. For example, if you are in love with granite countertops, take note of this now so that such preferences can be communicated to the builder you eventually choose.

Hidden Costs of Building a New Home

First-time homeowners are often startled when they begin to recognize the hidden costs of owning their own homes. There are many one-time start-up costs to building your first homes, such as furniture, lawn and garden equipment, window treatments, and Internet and media wiring. And homeownership comes with ongoing monthly expenses that can catch you off-guard if you’re not prepared for the—expenses such as homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and lawn-care services. If you’ve been a renter up to now, these expenses can be a shocking surprise.

Choose Your Lot

If you have not yet purchased a building lot for your new home, talk with realtors to get a rough estimate of land costs in the areas you are considering. Although land costs vary greatly depending on local land costs, in general, you should plan for around per cent or higher of your new home cost to go toward the purchase of the land.

Whether you are building your home in a suburban development or a site with sweeping ocean views, you will almost always need to choose the land before selecting floor plans or other details. You (and any pros you hire) will need to investigate factors such as soil condition, drainage, zoning, and building codes in the region. Costs will be higher if your house design needs to be customized to fit the lot. If the house can be built on the lot using stock blueprints, it will help your budget.

Pick a House Plan

Many new homes are built using stock plans from a printed catalogue or an online source. Finding the right plan can take some time. One place to begin might be deciding on your favourite house style. Then, get ideas from the many catalogues available. If necessary, have a builder or another building professional—an architect or designer—help you choose the best stock plan for your needs. A home designer can also make minor modifications to the stock plans regarding room size, window styles, or other details. Some builders can make slight modifications to stock home plans.

On the other hand, a custom-designed home is created specifically for the family who will live there and the site it sits upon. In most cases, custom-designed homes require the services of a licensed architect. They ask questions like, “Where is the sun in relation to the lot? Where do the prevailing breezes come from? How can we save money on long-term heating and cooling costs?” The architect should also ask exhaustive questions about your lifestyle and preferences.

Whether you opt for a stock or a custom design, it’s wise to choose a plan that will meet your needs for many years to come. For example, a young couple may want to plan for more family members, while an older homeowner should anticipate aging-in-place needs.

Line Up Your Team

Once a working budget, a building site, and home design are selected, you can now begin assembling the team of experts to design and construct your house. Key players can include a builder, an excavator, a surveyor, and a home designer or an architect if needed. In most cases, homeowners begin by selecting the builder (general contractor). That pro then selects other members of the team. However, you may also opt to hire an architect or designer first.

The big question is this: How involved will you be (can you be) in the process? While most homeowners hire a general contractor/builder to coordinate most or all of the work, it is also possible for a homeowner who wants to be deeply involved in the process to serve as his or her GC. In this case, you will be hiring and supervising all the subcontractors—excavators, carpenters, concrete contractors, etc.—yourself. Working this way is not for the faint of heart, but for the right person, it can be a rewarding way to build a house, as well as one that saves money.

What About Nontraditional Construction?

What your house looks like does not necessarily dictate how the house is constructed. Traditional frame construction is not the only option. Many people have become intrigued with straw-bale houses, rammed earth construction, and even cob houses. But you cannot expect traditional builders—or even all architects—to be experts in everything. Building traditional houses using a nontraditional method requires a team that specializes in that type of construction. Do your homework and find the right architect and builder who can realize your vision.

Negotiate a Contract

Be sure to get written, signed contracts for each building professional involved in building your home. At the very least, this means a contract with the general contractor/builder and the home designer or architect if they are part of the process.

What goes into a building contract? A contract for new home construction will describe the project in detail and include a listing of all the parts to be included in the house—the “specs.” Without detailed specifications, your house will likely be built with “builder’s grade” materials, which can be on the cheaper side. Be sure to hash out the specs as part of the negotiation before the contract is written—and then make sure everything is clearly listed. Remember to amend the contract later on if you or your contractor makes any changes to the project.

The time spent completing the preliminary steps to building a new home can be an exciting period, but this is also a time to evaluate if new construction is the right choice. The process is a lot of hard work, and it brings disruption to your life and the lives of those around you. You may well find that it is less stressful to shop for an existing home—either a pre-existing home or a newly constructed home that has been built “on-spec.” Or you may find that remaining in your existing home and remodelling it is a better option.

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